§ Mr. Morley
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has on the numbers of sea birds washed up on British coasts over the last three months; what were the causes of death; in what areas these birds were washed up; and what types of birds they were.
§ Mr. Atkins
The Department's statutory conservation advisers do not keep records of the numbers of sea birds washed up dead on British coasts because this information has been found to be of limited value in interpreting wildlife mortality incidents.
During the past three months there have been two major incidents involving the deaths of seabirds. One concerned pollution off the Lancashire coast at the beginning of the year and I refer the hon. Member to the answer he was given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London on 26 January, Official Report, column 245.
More recently, between 25,000 and 60,000 guillemots and shags are estimated to have been washed up on the north and east coast of Britain. Starvation is believed to be the principal cause of death, possibly due to a combination of strong onshore winds which may have disturbed normal feeding activity and, perhaps, a mismatch between bird location and food activity.
Three other incidents have occurred in the Irish sea involving oil pollution in which over 1,500 sea birds were affected, including common scoter, guillemot, great crested grebe and razorbill.